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Validation of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Land Change Monitoring, Assessment and Projection (LCMAP) collection 1.0 annual land cover products 1985–2017

August 19, 2021

The U.S. Geological Survey Land Change Monitoring, Assessment and Projection (USGS LCMAP) has released a suite of annual land cover and land cover change products for the conterminous United States (CONUS). The accuracy of these products was assessed using an independently collected land cover reference sample dataset produced by analysts interpreting Landsat data, high-resolution aerial photographs, and other ancillary data. The reference sample of nearly 25,000 pixels and the accompanying 33-year time series of annual land cover reference labels allowed for a comprehensive assessment of accuracy of the LCMAP land cover and land cover change products. Overall accuracy (± standard error) for the per-pixel assessment across all years for the eight land cover classes was 82.5% (±0.2%). Overall accuracy was consistent year-to-year within a range of 1.5% but varied regionally with lower accuracy in the eastern United States. User’s accuracy (UA) and producer’s accuracy (PA) for CONUS ranged from the higher accuracies of Water (UA=96%, PA=93%) and Tree Cover (UA=90%, PA=83%) to the lower accuracies of Wetland (UA=69%, PA=74%) and Barren (UA=43%, PA=57%). For a binary change / no change classification, UA of change was 13% (±0.5%) and PA was 16% (±0.6%) for CONUS when agreement was defined as a match by the exact year of change. UA and PA improved to 28% and 34% when agreement was defined as the change being detected by the map and reference data within a ±2-year window. Change accuracy was higher in the eastern United States compared to the western US. UA was 49% (±0.3) and PA was 54% (±0.3) for the footprint of change (defined as the area experiencing at least one land cover change from 1985–2017). For class-specific loss and gain when agreement was defined as an exact year match, UA and PA were generally below 30%, with Tree Cover loss being the most accurately mapped change (UA=25%, PA=31%). These accuracy results provide users with information to assess the suitability of LCMAP data and information to guide future research for improving LCMAP products, particularly focusing on the challenges of accurately mapping annual land cover change.

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